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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Banjo - On Controlling Remotes

We've been married for 36 years. Thankfully, they've been wonderful years!
There was a time when I couldn't imagine being 30, let alone being married more than 30 years. 
I wanted to impart some of the wisdom I've discovered that have helped make this feat possible.
The most important thing in a marriage, as we all know (at least those that have been married more than two years), is … who controls the remote. It's popularly known as the 'remote control.' That's not entirely correct – it's actually the 'who controls the remote' remote-thingie.
When we were first married, we didn't even have a remote. I had seen remotes; I even had an uncle that owned a furniture store, and who actually owned a remote control, back in the 60s. This was a big, heavy thing made by Zenith. It was gold colored, and had a wire-grill on the front where the radio waves would emerge to turn the channel.  To change the channel, you pointed it at the TV and pushed the 'up channel' button or the 'down channel' button - there was no way to select individual channels. But that was OK, because there was only three channels anyway, and you were never more than two clicks up or down ever.  And it changed the channel by this little motor on the TV; it would go, sorta slow-like: 'ca-didge, ca-didge, ca-dige', and you had just gone through all three channels. 
Well, we didn't have a Zenith remote control, and we sure didn't have a furniture store either, so we made do.
What we made-do with was a black-and-white TV that I had 'repaired' by replacing the 'on/off' button. Only I couldn't find an 'on/off' button that looked like the one that was already on the TV, so I had to make do with what I could find. And what I could find was this BIG RED (that's in caps because it was BIG and it was REAL RED) that I mounted on the top of the TV.  If there's another one of these out there anywhere, it's probably on the TV set of Larry The Cable Guy.  
That wasn't just an ordinary BIG RED switch either; it was PUSH-BUTTON!  The way I figured it, that put us somewhere ahead of the rest of the people that made do with some sort of BIG RED TOGGLE SWITCH.  It worked great, but you were never quite sure, when you pushed it, if the TV was going to come on or you were going to launch!
We didn't realize it, but we were actually quite ahead for our times – this was not only a TV with a big RED launch button, but it was also an e-x-e-r-c-i-s-e machine! It was a simple exercise machine; the idea was, you waited around long enough until something came on you didn't want to watch, then you jumped up, ran the eight feet across our 'big' living room, and you CHANGED THE CHANNEL by twirling a knob; then you twirled another knob to 'fine tune it'. Then you sort of swaggered back to your seat on the couch, to gratitude from your mate. YOU were the channel-changer-remote-thingie, not some dumb plastic thing that only offers impersonal service; this was 'husband-to-go' and TV remote all rolled into one.
But. That's not what I learned that I'm trying to teach you about being married for a while.
What I learned is: how to tell how long a couple has been married.  And you don't have to be an anthropologist to do it.  
It appears that marriages start out where she's changing the channels for the two of you, and she does it with a smile ;-) too!
Then it becomes, he's changing the channels for the two of you, and he'd better do it with a smile :-O too!
Then technology advances; if you are lucky, you get a new remote; if not, you get divorced!
We were lucky; we got a new COLOR TV because I wanted to GRAPH MATH FUNCTIONS and see them in color on a friend's Apple II!
Yup, that actually pretty much sums me up – I bought our first color TV because I wanted to be able to see different equations in different colors. Since this was pre-computer monitors, this meant a color TV. And, since we were living in the future now, with computers and cassette players, that TV came with a remote! Best of all, you didn't have to own a furniture store to get one!
But I've been wandering around without getting to the point. So let me see if I can get back to the point.
When the marriage starts out (in the old days before Facebook), each one of the young marrieds gets up to change the channel.
Then, when you get the new color TV (were talking tubes here, not LCD or Plasma), and it comes with the remote, the guy takes charge of the remote.  I know some of you are busting-a-gut over that wording, but that's pretty much it.
The lasts until about the time the kids graduate from high school. Once those kids are gone, there's a new power structure – suddenly, the wife is in charge of the remote!  I think, best I can figure out, is that this is probably the first time she's had to actually sit down to watch TV since the children have been born, and by golly - she's dang-sure going to watch what she wants to watch!  
Fair enough. 
So, I'm sitting here tonight watching reruns of Everybody Loves Ramon, which was shown new in 2004. I'm watching it because I don't have charge of the remote. Of course, I could get up to change the TV manually, but first, I'd have to get up. Second, those little dim gray-on-black buttons that are flush on my TV – I can't see them without a flashlight. That's OK, because the price of those new LED flashlights has dropped so much, I get a pack of three every time I go to Fry's. I have one in my pocket still from last night's storms in case we lost power – they are just the thing to see those dim buttons.  But, as I said, I'd have to get up.  
So, what's a guy to do? She's got the remote.  She's in charge of the remote.  I read sometimes where guys say they've got charge of the remote, but either they are single, newly wed, or just a short-step away from divorse, if the kids are gon; if the kids are still home, there still some time left to pretend.  
It may be that she's got it because she's the only one that can find anything – I'm always setting something down and dang-it, where did I leave that? But she knows, or maybe she's hiding it, but anyway, she can find it so she's in charge of it.
For a guy like me, that's keen on technology, in addition to math equations, that means just one thing: I'm building my own remote control using an Arduino, and I'm going to mount it to my belt buckle. And, I'm going to make sure mine has brighter LEDs, so I can override hers!  And, if we don't get a sun-tan or convulsions when I stobe it, we may just be watching Nova next!

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